The middle aged man startled Bowie as he emerged from the room. It was not just that he was a high profile US Senator, or that he was accompanied by an extremely young girl, but it was the casual, confident way in which he proceeded.
Without any self-consciousness or shame. Just a regular guy on a date with his girlfriend. Bowie looked around nervously. He was terrified that Kayla would come out of the showers and see this guy. He could just picture her calmly executing the Senator, the way she had disposed of the Goon back at the beach. She just casually drew that cannon of hers and blew the top of his head off. There was no question he deserved it and it was probably the only way to save Noah being shot, but it was the calm, confident way that she’d done it and the disturbing gleam in her eyes. She really got off on it, enjoyed it.
They’d escaped before the other Goons came back from the beach and thankfully the girl, Zoey knew about this place, where they could shelter. He watched as the Senator led the child to a seat at the far end of the room near the bar and a waiter appeared and took his order. The child kept her eyes to the floor, obviously unaccustomed to being seated in this room. She didn’t respond when the Senator spoke to her. Bowie wondered if she could even speak English. She looked Latin, probably from Mexico or Central America he guessed.
Bowie shook his head. Of all places to take us to, a stinking brothel. And now this freaking pedophile Senator. He glanced nervously around again, but thankfully the others were taking their time, enjoying their first hot shower in more than a week. Bowie imagined the cleansing, soothing hot water on his skin, followed by a comfortable night sleeping in a bed. A real bed. The last thing he needed was for Kayla to screw it all up, taking out the Senator with that cannon of hers and landing them back out on the street again, back on the run.
Bowie looked at the odd couple again, the senator enjoying a scotch, the girl at his side, head bowed. He felt revulsion and shame. Why did the bastards have to do that to me? He wondered, recalling that night the Director had taken him to a place like this. The night he finally learned what had really happened to him.
“Here’s to slavery,” the Director had said, raising his glass. Bowie politely obliged, though the subject of the toast puzzled him. As if sensing his trepidation, the Director tried to set him at ease.
“Relax. You’re one of us, now. ” he grated in his gravelly voice, his eyes moved from Bowie’s to follow a very young girl in a sexy outfit. They flicked back to Bowie. “You know how much the world is overpopulated?”
“Yes, it’s a problem.”
“That’s why we must act. We have to.” He said with a hint of grandeur creeping into his voice. “For the good of this planet.” A self-indulgent smile spread across his broad face. “But why shouldn’t we enjoy ourselves in the process?” He gestured to the scantily clad girls scurrying past, “What other purpose can these humans serve? I mean really?”
Bowie shrugged, not understanding where he was going with this.
“I believe you’re not a Christian?”
Bowie shook his head.
“So then you don’t have that handicap of having to view them as “God’s creations,” as something more than flesh and bones.” He emptied his glass and a nervous waiter quickly approached the table with a bottle of Whisky and refilled it. He refilled Bowie’s glass.
He raised his glass of whiskey, gulping down the amber fluid. Drinking to drown the shame. It was only when through the tilted glass, he noticed the triumphant gleam in the Director’s eye and realized what had happened. Again. The Director had drugged him, while boasting about it.
“Change is upon us, my boy. We can be swept along with it, we can try to fight it, or we can be in the driver’s seat. You understand?”
Bowie began to get a sense of being in the wrong place at precisely the wrong time. The Director was too inebriated, he was saying too much.
“Look at humanity from our perspective. A unit of production. Is it profitable? Well up until recently, yes. But now…”
Bowie shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He took another swig of the single malt. He wished he were somewhere else, anywhere else.
“But by luck, the humans who give us the most trouble are also the ones who are the most redundant.”
“You’re speaking of the Deplorables?”
“Of course. Truck drivers, coal miners, manufacturing workers. They can all be replaced by robotics and artificial intelligence. And where we still need men to work with their hands, we have the Mexicans. Much cheaper and far more agreeable, wouldn’t you say.”
An older grey haired man entered the room with a tiny girl in tow. She was wearing white lingerie and had a number tucked into her bra. Number 23. He’d obviously chosen her from a lineup and now waited for a young man in uniform to open the door of a room for him. Bowie tried to guess the girl’s age, 12? Perhaps 14 at the most. He could feel the Director’s stare.
“Aha, you recognise him?”
Bowie looked from the girl to the man, he was vaguely familiar.
“A Supreme Court judge” Said the Director smugly. “And soon to be an X-rated movie star. Completely compromised.” He said with a chuckle, then raised a glass to Bowie, “As were you, m’boy.”
Bowie flushed and gulped the rest of his glass down, attempting to drown out any emotions. The waiter scurried over and filled it again.
He finally looked at the Director, who grinned at him like a Cheshire Cat.
“I bet you never thought you had those tendencies before, eh? A normal family life, no history of abuse… It’s amazing what people can be made to do isn’t it?”
“W-w-what do you mean?” Stammered Bowie.
“Well, most men wouldn’t take a girl that young. They’ve been conditioned against that. To be labelled a pedophile is such a shameful thing.” He gloated at Bowie, “But our Chinese friends have been experimenting with some combinations of aphrodisiacs and amphetamines. They came up with a next generation class of inhibition suppressors and libido stimulators that have had very promising results. Like turbocharged viagra.” He snickered, taking another sip. “They’re very obsessed with this kind of thing you know, the Chinese. We’ve been testing them too, of course, on lucky candidates like yourself. We needed to be assured of their effectiveness, before we used them on our special targets: Judges, Politicians. It made our job so much easier.” He looked over to Bowie, “and your job as a writer, of course.”
Bowie felt stab in the pit of his stomach. But at the same time, there was a sense of relief. Relief in knowing he was not the sick, twisted individual he’d accepted himself to be. They had coaxed him, drugged him. All that shame he’d had to live with, almost driving him to the point of suicide and it was not really his fault. But he couldn’t completely eliminate all the doubt. How much of it was due to those drugs? He wondered.
“So you’ve been a part of our family for longer than you imagined,” the Director continued, eyeing Bowie as if it were something he should take pride in. Bowie struggled to hide his disgust. He raised his glass of whiskey, gulping down the amber fluid. Drinking to drown the shame. It was only when through the tilted glass, he noticed the triumphant gleam in the Director’s eye and realized what had happened. Again. The Director had drugged him, while boasting about it.
He slammed the glass down, choking and spraying the contents across the table. The room swam, as the Director’s laughter mocked his ears.
Even as he began to stand, trying desperately to get out, to run away, to resist, the swelling started in his groin and exhilaration pumped through his veins. His inhibitions and cares floating away like clouds in a summer sky. He could feel the Director’s grip on his wrist, restraining him and Bowie no longer cared. He surrendered completely to his primitive urges.
Bowie found himself shaking all over, in a cold sweat as he tried desperately to push those memories out of his mind. Destroy them, smash them to pieces.
“Are you finished?”
The distant voice seemed to confirm his hopeless situation. He nodded without looking up, “Yeah. Well and truly finished.”
“You’ve had a shower already?” It was Kayla. Bowie looked up, startled.
“Go and have a hot shower,” she said, “there is shampoo, towels, everything.”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” He got to his feet. Kayla and Zoey plonked down in the lounge chairs. They smelt of scented soap and shampoo. A smell he never thought he’d miss so much. Zoey smiled shyly at him as he turned to walk in the direction of the showers. Something bothered him. Maybe it had been the look Zoey gave him. Had he seen her before? Maybe in a place like this? How had she known to lead us here anyway? He recalled how they’d let her in without question. It could only mean she was one of the children that worked in this sordid industry, catering for the twisted tastes of the predators who stalked this city.
How long had she been a part of the scene? He began to feel aroused as he thought of her, but every arousal now came accompanied with a dose of shame, making a normal healthy relationship almost impossible for Bowie. They fucked my mind, he thought, used me like a lab monkey. Then when he was of no use any more, he was to be disposed of. He relaxed, surrendering to the warm water that caressed his body. So relaxing. He drifted off for a while, then stopped. The fucking Senator. Kayla is out there with the Senator.
Bowie hurriedly dressed, shaking and walked quickly back into the lounge room, looking around anxiously. If he could only stop Kayla, distract her, he could enjoy his first comfortable night’s sleep for a week. A real bed. It was too late. The Senator and his tiny victim were making their way back to the room and Kayla stood staring at them open mouthed. Everything went into slow motion. Bowie rushed forward, his voice echoing. It was like a tunnel. At the end, was Kayla, Smith & Wesson in her hand moving toward the Senator, the gleam in her eye. The look of hunger. The barrel moved slowly up toward his head. The Senator stared at it, resigned to his fate, as if he gazed into the eyes of the Grim Reaper himself.
“Kayla, no,” Bowie shouted as her trigger finger tightened and the hammer moved back and hit hard. The Senator’s face dissolved into a technicolor spray. Then there was screaming, hysterical screaming.
Bowie looked at Noah, his eyes pleading, but Noah simply shrugged, his boyish face amused, inquisitive. Kayla calmly holstered the gun, picked up her back pack and looked at the others. The child had her hands over her eyes, screaming. The staff seemed to be screaming too.
We better go.” Said Kayla.
Bowie followed her wearily. It had all played out exactly as he had feared. People appeared in doorways, nervously peering, pointing at the group. Nobody confronting them, until they were on the street. It was dark, moonless, but safe. They could hide in the darkness. It was his home now, his comfort zone. He looked to the others. “Where can we go now?” They shrugged. He looked at Zoey, “Do you know any other places we can hide out?”
Zoey giggled. She reminded him of a cute little hobbit setting out on a big adventure, wide eyes full of anticipation. “I know a place a couple of blocks from here.”
There was another screech of tires and they were blocked by another Humvee. More bright lights and an amplified voice “Drop your weapons and lie on the ground. Now.”
“Is it a brothel, too?” Asked Bowie
“No, just an old guy, a rich old guy,” She giggled again.
“Okay, let’s go see this privileged old bastard,” said Kayla.
Just as they began walking, a pair of bright spotlights blinded them. A military vehicle screeched to a stop and armed men clambered down to the street. They turned in the other direction. A side street lay just a few yards away. If they could reach it before… There was another screech of tires and they were blocked by another Humvee. More bright lights and an amplified voice “Drop your weapons and lie on the ground. Now.”
Bowie dropped to the ground. Around him weapons clanged on the concrete and the others lay down beside him. He heard boots on the road, stomping. Rough hands wrenched his arms up, a zip tie dug into his wrists. Then a man’s voice, harsh and precise: “We’ve got them, Colonel.” A distorted voice and static replied. The man’s voice again. “Affirmative. The rebels who just shot the Senator.”